- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

Governors say they are willing to create the federalized driver’s license and identification card system called Real ID but want Congress and the Bush administration to pay $1 billion upfront for the security program.

“The nation’s governors are committed to providing secure driver’s licenses and identification cards for their citizens,” the National Governors Association (NGA) said in several letters yesterday to the White House and key members of Congress.

“If the federal government is going to direct state security practices over traditional state functions such as driver’s licenses and identification cards, then the federal government should pay the states’ cost of compliance,” said the letters signed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the Republican chairman of the NGA, and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, the Democratic vice chairman.

“If Real ID is to become reality, Congress and the administration must provide sufficient funding to cover states’ cost and preserve flexibility for states to manage their unique systems,” the governors stated.

The program will require a significant amount of start-up funding to develop new systems while changing past security practices, the governors wrote.

In addition to paying for upfront costs, the governors want the federal government’s pledge to cover ongoing costs until the program is fully implemented in 2017.

The Homeland Security Department has already allocated $380 million in grants to develop the new system and is asking Congress to fund $50 million in grants for the fiscal 2009 budget, said department spokeswoman Amy Kudwa.

“Real ID has security benefits for the states just as much as for the federal government, and it is the only 9/11 commission recommendation that required action on behalf of the states,” Ms. Kudwa said.

The program is expected to cost $3.9 billion, 73 percent less than originally anticipated, or $8 per driver’s license,” Ms. Kudwa said.

States have until March 31 to tell the federal government whether they will comply with the program and to ask for an extension of time to get the system up and running.

The identification will be required for commercial air travel and to enter federal buildings and nuclear facilities. Residents of states not in compliance would face additional security screening.

“At many entry points to vulnerable facilities, including gates for boarding aircraft, sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists,” the September 11 commission said.

The Homeland Security Department, at its discretion, can expand beyond the initial uses of the identification to be required to enter other federal facilities.

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